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What's the most useless thing you've ever translated?
Thread poster: Claire Titchmarsh
Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:44
Italian to English
+ ...
Nov 28, 2006

Please note: this is a totally useless thread, just for people like me who are not enjoying the text they are working on at the moment and would prefer to be watching paint dry on a wall somewhere. All completely tongue in cheek, btw, so don't go accusing me of casting aspersions on our wonderful profession!

Of all the useless things we are asked to translate (by useless I mean things that nobody in their right minds and/or with a life would ever read, except other translators looking for buzzwords) here is my top 4, in ascending order of uselessness:


4. The product information leaflets included with any domestic appliance (these are in fact not useless and potentially very useful indeed, it's just that nobody will ever refer to them until they are absolutely desperate and have been trying to make the appliance in question work for at least three hours).

3. The product information leaflets in cosmetics boxes (in at least 37 languages). Hands up who has ever read one because they cared about what it said.

2. Terms and conditions of business (a sore point, as I spend half my life doing these). But who, honestly, ever reads ALL of them before signing a contract?? I am talking about the small print on the back of lease agreements etc.

1. Privacy policy statements, (need I say more).

Any worse offenders?


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Csaba Ban  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 00:44
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
most useless sentence Nov 28, 2006

I do read product labels and manuals (if they are not too long) - these are excellent sources of parallel linguistics and also a good way of learning foreign languages.

The most useless sentence I've translated went like this:

You can switch on the device by switching the "ON/OFF" switch to the "ON" position.

OK, now back to work.
Csaba


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:44
German to English
+ ...
Interesting Nov 28, 2006

The examples of texts you refer to are invariably useless not because of their content, but merely because no one reads them.

Unfortunately, many translators are guilty of propagating the myth that product information leaflets, for instance, are useless, by considering them not worth translating conscientiously. With predictable results: hardly anyone reads them, and the few people who do have their suspicions confirmed that they weren't worth reading in the first place.

I frequently hear translators talk blithely of technical documentation as if it were something they could translate in their sleep; as if it were a means of passing the time and paying the rent until something worthy of their intellect comes along - usually in the form of advertising copy or novels.

When I was I child, assorted adults were fond of the phrase "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing properly".

Not that I am suggesting, Claire, that you are not translating properly. But with all those impressionable newbiez out there...

Marc


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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 01:44
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Useless books Nov 28, 2006

Claire Titchmarsh wrote:
Please note: this is a totally useless thread...


I'm afraid it is.

I've translated a couple of books which were not probably bought by anyone except of totally insane or cheated readers - and the fact still fits the idea of "totally useless", I believe. Before, I had spent some time to convince the owners of the publishing house that the books were as useless as a broken CD with Jenny Jackson's songs - alas, in vain...

One of the books was Ken Eagle Feather's `Tracking Freedom' - a crazy mix of Castaneda's writing, paranoidal speeches and distorted English. Having translated it meant to me sacrificing a part of my mental health (still not recovered) and a lot of my hair. Alfred Hitchcock, George Romero and Stephen King would certainly say it was a *** real horror***, but I just don't want these respected gentlemen to read the book and go insane (finally), so please don't tell them.

The another one was Sergio Bambaren's `The Dolphin'. It was so disgustingly close to Richard Bach's `Jonathan Livingston Seagull', that, while translating, I was hesitating between shooting myself or the Sergio. Luckily, he was too far and my instincts saved me from self-destruction. It was probably the most unpleasant moment for me (not mentioning watching Oprah's, but it's OK, she'll be my next after me shooting Sergio).

[Edited at 2006-11-28 16:50]


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Kirsty Mason  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:44
German to English
Back translation to English Nov 28, 2006

A couple of years ago I was translating a medical journal article for an agency. The first paragraph contained the sentence "This article is the German translation of the article [...] originally published in English [full bibliographical reference]".

I pointed this out to the agency immediately, who pointed it out to their client. Amazingly the end client told us to go ahead with the translation into English anyway. I provided my own proper translation but was subsequently able to check it against the original for any discrepancies (my version was, of course, better ). A truly pointless exercise, but what the client wants...


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monbuckland  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:44
Member (2006)
German to English
+ ...
Back translation Nov 28, 2006

Kirsty wrote:

A couple of years ago I was translating a medical journal article for an agency. The first paragraph contained the sentence "This article is the German translation of the article
iginally published in English [full bibliographical reference]".... A truly pointless exercise, but what the client wants... [/quote]

Actually, back translation is anything other than pointless, and is often done in the medical sector.
Have you ever played the game "Chinese whispers"? One person whispers a sentence to the next, the second person whispers what they thought the first one told them, and so on. Each whispering introduces tiny changes in the original text, and when it arrives back at the start, it has usually changed unrecognizably.
This is one thing back translation aims to avoid. There can be vital differences between the back translation and the original text - and I mean vital in the sense of life-threatening, if we are talking about medical or pharmaceutical information. As a translator you make interpretive decisions each time you convert from one language to another. Back translating shows where these interpretations are correct or not.
The other purpose of back translation is to ensure that the original text is written clearly and unambiguously. If there are major differences between the back translation and the original, it could be because the original contained items that were open to interpretation when they shouldn't have been.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:44
English to Spanish
+ ...
A ton of documents Nov 28, 2006

Well, not a ton, but certainly quite a few kilos of documents for a legal case that was promptly thrown out of court for lack of merits.

It was not really so useless; I learned a ton from doing them and the revenue paid my bills for quite a while, so I can't complain.


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Seadeta Osmani  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 00:44
English to Croatian
+ ...
Useless enough? Nov 28, 2006

I know this is supposed to be about "useless projects", but I just had to let you know about this sentence I had to translate recently:

"This unit enables you to identify the recorded files
from radio, but the identifying will not work."


[Edited at 2006-11-28 17:22]


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JennyC08
Local time: 18:44
German to French
+ ...
Translation for the Canadian government Nov 28, 2006

What an interesting topic!
A year ago, I translated a report from English into French.
The workshop that is related to that report happened a year before! It was at that time of the year when some Canadian departments get rid of some money so that they can receive the same amount of fund the year after.
I know that my translation was never read (except by my reviewer!!!).


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:44
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Songs Nov 28, 2006

Hi,

I guess some people would not agree with me... but I've translated a couple of punjabi songs that really don't mean a thing it's just the beats that are interesting but a translation bureau paid me to translate these songs to English. I tried to tell the person that it was really pointless exercise and he agreed with me (he understood punjabi) but wanted me to translate those songs!!!

Still, I'll admit I had a lot of fun... I tried my best to make some sense out of it. And of course, I got to listen to those songs (told my father it was "professional" ) . My father had sort of banned those songs 'coz they don't make any sense and contain lots of abusive words that girls are not supposed to hear!!!

I'll gladly send the lyrics to anyone who wants to laugh... and of course, if you want I'll send the original translation of the lyrics (unedited version) which made us all laugh for two hours (at least).

Music has no language. So why do people want to get these songs translated

sincerely,

Ritu


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Kirsty Mason  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:44
German to English
Back translation Nov 28, 2006

monbuckland wrote:

Actually, back translation is anything other than pointless, and is often done in the medical sector.


Of course there are merits to back translation as an exercise in it's own right, but I'm pretty certain this was not the case here.

The end client in question understood no German and found an article published in a German medical journal that they wanted translated into EN for purposes of understanding, since the content related to an area of the company's own research.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:44
Italian to English
+ ...
it was a patent application.... Nov 28, 2006

.... and I really, really wanted to send it back saying "save your money, no one will ever buy this!"

So OK girls, tell the truth - you really, really wanted a pouch to hold your mobile, purse and other essentials, incorporated into your top and designed to nestle into that convenient little space between your breasts, didn't you?

Hey come on, it avoids your bag strap chafing your shoulders and means you don't have to worry about where to put your bag when you're dancing - what more could you possibly need?


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:44
French to English
+ ...
not so fast... Nov 28, 2006

Marie-Helene Hayles wrote:

So OK girls, tell the truth - you really, really wanted a pouch to hold your mobile, purse and other essentials, incorporated into your top and designed to nestle into that convenient little space between your breasts, didn't you?

Hey come on, it avoids your bag strap chafing your shoulders and means you don't have to worry about where to put your bag when you're dancing - what more could you possibly need?

hey, as long as it was relatively unobtrusive, I think there might be a market for that kind of thing - it would put a stop to the 'dancing round the handbags' tradition, anyway. Can't say I'm really into clubbing but if I were, this might be something I'd consider buying....


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:44
Italian to English
+ ...
Just the thing when you need to pay for the drinks Nov 28, 2006

I know it used to be the tradition for women of a certain profession to keep their money tucked into the top of their dresses, but would you seriously consider fishing around inside your top under the phone and lippie and whatever ("I know it's down here somewhere...") every time you needed to pay for a drink?

If so, I'll be happy to send you the application for more details!


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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 01:44
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Will quarters, dimes and nickels do? Nov 28, 2006

Marie-Helene Hayles wrote:
I know it used to be the tradition for women of a certain profession to keep their money tucked into the top of their dresses


Sign me first, please! Sorry, dimes and nickels here... If a pound or two of coins is OK to fill the tops?


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